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Good afternoon y'all and Happy New Year! My name is Austin and I am 27 years old. I am a firefighter/paramedic in Texas. I have always been interested in healthcare and helping people, so I thought a good start would be to acquire my EMT certification, and immediately became hooked. So I got hired on with a fire department and obtained my paramedic certification. But I want to continue to expand in the medical field and emergency medicine. I have about 3 years in EMS experience. The only real college experience I have is with my EMT, pre-requisite A&P, and Paramedic. So I know I am probably not off to a good start there and might be getting ahead of myself. But I am very eager to begin on the path to accomplish becoming a PA. So my question is, what exactly are the pre-requisites to becoming a PA? This portion of education and schooling, I am not familiar with at all. I don't really know where to begin. So any help would be greatly appreciated and I would love to talk with you about any advice and guidance you can offer! Thank you again and I hope you all have a fantastic 2020!

Edited by AustinR

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There are about 250 accredited PA programs across the country now, and unfortunately the prerequisites vary quite a bit between them. This means that it will take you doing the research online to find out which schools you may want to apply to, and then checking each individual school's website to see what their admissions criteria are. This sounds daunting, but the good thing is that you already have one of the major prerequisities of every PA school done -- quality patient care experience. That will be immensely valuable when the time comes for you to apply. 

A good place to start is to check the PAEA Program Directory and start looking at schools that may interest you. Focus first on programs that list "continuing" accreditation if possible; "provisional" accreditation are new programs that may not be as established yet, and "probationary" accreditation are programs that are working on issues to ensure they can stay accredited (may or may not be bad). If you have a family, you may want to start first by looking at programs in your area if you can't move, but if not just look at areas you wouldn't mind living during PA school or cities/states you'd actively like to work in after PA school. Then just google the school's name and look at the PA program admissions criteria web page -- every PA school has one and will list everything they require there. 

In general, the requirements usually include Biology I & II, Chemistry I & II, Organic Chemistry I, Anatomy & Physiology I & II, Microbiology, Genetics, Psychology, and Statistics; most of these courses require labs, but that varies by school. Programs also usually require an additional math course like algebra or calculus, additional psychology courses, and 1-2 English composition courses, and may have other specific course requirements like biochemistry as well (this is where your personal research comes in since it's so variable). Schools usually require the GRE exam to apply, but this isn't universal. Lastly, you should try to set up some PA shadowing since it is usually a requirement and also could save you a lot of wasted time/energy if you decide you don't actually like what the PA role entails. 

As you do your research, make a list or spreadsheet of programs you're interested in and list out all of their prerequisite courses, their GRE requirements, their shadowing hours requirements, their application deadlines, etc. This will help you narrow your field once you start taking your prereq classes. 

You'll need to get a bachelor's degree, but it doesn't matter what major you choose. Biology is a common choice since it includes a lot of the required science classes, but you can major in anything. Whatever you choose, focus on keeping all A's and B's (more A's), and work extra hard to get A's in any course that is a prerequisite for PA school. Doing that will increase your odds of getting accepted your first cycle when it comes time to apply. 

It will be a challenging road, but older students with an end goal in mind tend to do quite well, so starting fresh is actually a pretty good place to be. 

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ProSpectre, thank you so much! I will definitely look into it. It does seem a bit overwhelming, but it is certainly a profession I am wanting. Thank you again!

CAdamsPAC, sorry about posting in the wrong forum. I was hoping to speak with some people who have been through it with experience for some guidance and advice about what my next steps should be.

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3 minutes ago, AustinR said:

ProSpectre, thank you so much! I will definitely look into it. It does seem a bit overwhelming, but it is certainly a profession I am wanting. Thank you again!

CAdamsPAC, sorry about posting in the wrong forum. I was hoping to speak with some people who have been through it with experience for some guidance and advice about what my next steps should be.

I'm pretty sure those areas will provide you plenty of information and contacts with those who are or have been in your situation.

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2 minutes ago, CAdamsPAC said:

I'm pretty sure those areas will provide you plenty of information and contacts with those who are or have been in your situation.

Awesome. Okay I wasn't sure where to post to get information. Thank you for your help.

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I was pretty much in your exact same spot when I decided to become a PA. Had very, very little college credit since my EMT and paramedic courses weren't academic courses. As said above, this is actually a pretty good spot to be in. You can choose a course of study that makes the most sense and wastes the least amount of time/money (though there will be some redundancy). There are a few EMS bachelor's degrees out there. The one I did was designed to be pre-med, so most of my pre-requsites were part of the program. Best of all, you can focus on getting great grades from the start. 

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Guest RDtwoPA

I would definitely look into Accelerated (BS/MS) Physician Assistant Programs or getting into a undergrad that has a linkage agreement with the PA program from another institution. 

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2 hours ago, fishbum said:

I was pretty much in your exact same spot when I decided to become a PA. Had very, very little college credit since my EMT and paramedic courses weren't academic courses. As said above, this is actually a pretty good spot to be in. You can choose a course of study that makes the most sense and wastes the least amount of time/money (though there will be some redundancy). There are a few EMS bachelor's degrees out there. The one I did was designed to be pre-med, so most of my pre-requsites were part of the program. Best of all, you can focus on getting great grades from the start. 

That's awesome! What was your major in? If you don't mind my asking. I know I want to remain in emergency medicine in some sort of capacity.

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1 hour ago, RDtwoPA said:

I would definitely look into Accelerated (BS/MS) Physician Assistant Programs or getting into a undergrad that has a linkage agreement with the PA program from another institution. 

Thank you RDtwoPA! Sort of sense a Star Wars reference in your name lol with the college that I have now, how long do you reckon it would take to complete the accelerated BS program? Sorry if these are dumb questions. This is all foreign to me.

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15 hours ago, AustinR said:

Thank you RDtwoPA! Sort of sense a Star Wars reference in your name lol with the college that I have now, how long do you reckon it would take to complete the accelerated BS program? Sorry if these are dumb questions. This is all foreign to me.

Actually, though I am a fan, it is no Star Wars reference lol, I am currently a Registered/Clinical Dietitian a RD (RDtoPA was already taken).

How long it will take will depend on the school and the program. Even within PA programs there is a difference within length of time (usually anywhere from 26-36 months). It also depends on if your new institution will accept your old credits. It's cool that you have an idea of what area you want to practice, I am not sure what area I would like to practice in,  however, I know things will likely change once I shadow a few PAs or do clinicals. How did you first learn about the PA career?  I was already done with undergrad when I discovered that PA was even a career that existed.

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7 hours ago, RDtwoPA said:

Actually, though I am a fan, it is no Star Wars reference lol, I am currently a Registered/Clinical Dietitian a RD (RDtoPA was already taken).

How long it will take will depend on the school and the program. Even within PA programs there is a difference within length of time (usually anywhere from 26-36 months). It also depends on if your new institution will accept your old credits. It's cool that you have an idea of what area you want to practice, I am not sure what area I would like to practice in,  however, I know things will likely change once I shadow a few PAs or do clinicals. How did you first learn about the PA career?  I was already done with undergrad when I discovered that PA was even a career that existed.

Lol the R2-D2 is the first thing that popped in my head after seeing your name.

I learned about it when I was going through my ER clinical for paramedic school. I started talking to one of the PA's and knew that was my ultimate goal. And just like you, I think the area of study may change over time, but still with the same outcome of being a PA. Like I said before, I just want to keep learning. Can you just shadow a random PA without being enrolled in a PA program.

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6 minutes ago, AustinR said:

Can you just shadow a random PA without being enrolled in a PA program.

Most programs actually require you to shadow one or more PAs in order to even be considered for acceptance to a PA program; they want to know that you have fully explored the career and understand what a PA actually does, and that you didn't just see it on the Forbes "Top Jobs" list and decide to apply on a whim.

I would encourage you to spend some time going through the pre-PA section on this site, and check out the pre-PA section on Reddit if you're on there. Use the search function and do some reading. There is a wealth of information on both sites, and while your questions are new to you, they are asked over and over again on these sites (which, lucky for you, means most of the questions you have are probably already answered if you look around enough). 

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On 1/1/2020 at 10:20 PM, AustinR said:

I know I want to remain in emergency medicine in some sort of capacity.

If you do end up pursuing a PA education, don't forget to keep an open mind. Many people find new areas of interest or find another field they'd like to work in more.

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13 hours ago, AustinR said:

Can you just shadow a random PA without being enrolled in a PA program.

Yes. Just call some offices or ask some of the PAs you encounter as a paramedic to see if they'll let you shadow for a shift or if they know of anyone who'd be willing to let you shadow. Once you enroll in college for your prereqs, join a premed club that has medical professionals come give a talk and see if any of those individuals will let you shadow them. You might run into some people saying No due to HIPAA or liability, so just keep asking around. Hell, I had no medical connections whatsoever when I was just beginning my journey to PA school. After cold-calling several offices and getting a ton of No's, I finally ended up asking my own PCP who was actually the reason why I wanted to become a PA. I admired her knowledge and she seemed happy with her work. I shadowed her for a few months, and she ended up writing me a great LOR. Later, I joined a club and an orthopedic surgeon gave a talk one day. He offered to let people shadow him and so I took him up on that offer. 

Great advice from the other posters above. Gain as much knowledge and experience about this profession as you can now before you invest any time and money in applying and taking prereqs.

Have you considered perfusion? I've heard there's a shortage of perfusionists right now.

Good luck!

Edited by Sed
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7 hours ago, Sed said:

Yes. Just call some offices or ask some of the PAs you encounter as a paramedic to see if they'll let you shadow for a shift or if they know of anyone who'd be willing to let you shadow. Once you enroll in college for your prereqs, join a premed club that has medical professionals come give a talk and see if any of those individuals will let you shadow them. You might run into some people saying No due to HIPAA or liability, so just keep asking around. Hell, I had no medical connections whatsoever when I was just beginning my journey to PA school. After cold-calling several offices and getting a ton of No's, I finally ended up asking my own PCP who was actually the reason why I wanted to become a PA. I admired her knowledge and she seemed happy with her work. I shadowed her for a few months, and she ended up writing me a great LOR. Later, I joined a club and an orthopedic surgeon gave a talk one day. He offered to let people shadow him and so I took him up on that offer. 

Great advice from the other posters above. Gain as much knowledge and experience about this profession as you can now before you invest any time and money in applying and taking prereqs.

Have you considered perfusion? I've heard there's a shortage of perfusionists right now.

Good luck!

I will certainly look into it! That's exactly why I made this post lol Thank you for the help and advice Sed!

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2 hours ago, AustinR said:

I will certainly look into it! That's exactly why I made this post lol Thank you for the help and advice Sed!

No prob, and good luck. It's a fun but tough journey.

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